KUNSHAN, China (2012 London Olympics): Yi Jianlian postponed his first appearance for the Chinese National Team in more than a year due to a rigid waist, but China didn’t have too much worry beating Montenegro 83-55 in the opening game of the four-nation friendly tournament on Friday.
China take on Croatia on Saturday and Serbia on Sunday.
Yi was not the only Chinese player on the hospital list – with Wang Shipeng, Sun Yue and Zhang Bo too giving the game a miss – but coach Bob Donewald Jr. looked at it as a blessing in disguise giving his bench players more time on the court.
“We played okay tonight,” Donewald said.
“A little slow, but picked it up in the 4th quarter,” he added.
China raced into a 21-17 lead at the end of the first quarter and 41-32 at the end of the first half before building a 15-point lead at the end of the third period. But China seemed to have reserved their best for the end, with the home team closing the game with a 18-5 run in the fourth quarter.
“It was great that we played our bench is a lot of minutes,” Donewald said.
“These games are important for our bench is players and younger players to get experience and confidence,” he added.
In a 12-man rotation, each Chinese player was on the court for more than 8 minutes, and all of them scored.
Zhu Fangyu led China’s win with a dozen points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.
“In the first quarter, our defense did really well but the offense was a little stressed,” Zhu Fangyu said.
“Zhu Fangyu was excellent tonight. His physical condition is very good. Ever since he missed the 2010 FIBA World Championship due to an injury, he has been working really hard,” Donewald praised.
“He is a very experienced player and we are counting on his Olympic experience too,” the coach added.
On Yi Jianlian’s absence, Donewald said: “We would have loved to have him on court, but he woke up with a stiff waist. Must be some wrong sleeping posture.”
The other Yi in the team – Yi Li – did well for himself pushing for a place in the final roster with 11 points in 4/5 field shooting.
Veteran Wang Zhizhi had 10 points in 5/6 shooting and Zhou Peng too touched the double-digit scoring.